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Russia pressed its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital Friday after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides in an attack that could rewrite the global post-Cold War security order.
Explosions sounded before dawn in Kyiv and gunfire was reported in several areas, as Western leaders scheduled an emergency meeting and Ukraine’s president pleaded for international help to fend off an attack that could topple his democratically elected government, cause massive casualties and ripple out damage to the global economy.
The Kremlin says Russia is ready to send a delegation to Belarus for talks with Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is willing to discuss a non-aligned status for Ukraine. Moscow has demanded Ukraine drop its bid to join NATO, and adopt a neutral status.
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Among the signs that the Ukrainian capital was increasingly threatened, the military said Friday that a group of Russian spies and saboteurs was seen in a district on the outskirts of Kyiv, and police told people not to exit a subway station in the city center because there was gunfire in the area. Elsewhere in the capital, soldiers established defensive positions at bridges, and armored vehicles rolled down the streets, while many residents stood uneasily in doorways of their apartment buildings.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kyiv “could well be under siege” in what U.S. officials believe is a brazen attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to install his own regime.
The assault, anticipated for weeks by the U.S. and Western allies, amounts to the largest ground war in Europe since World War II. After repeatedly denying plans to invade, the autocratic Putin launched his attack on the country, which has increasingly tilted toward the democratic West and away from Moscow’s sway.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose grasp on power was increasingly tenuous, appealed to global leaders for even more severe sanctions than the ones imposed by Western allies and for defense assistance.